Thursday, 31 October 2013

A HALLOWE'EN thespian nightmare!

Welcome to my Hallowe'en Blog Hop Giveaway!

The novel to your right - The Beltane Choice - is what's on offer. Read on to find out what you have to do to earn yourself an ecopy... 

TRICK OR TREAT? Is the following a genuine story, or one made up to treat you today?
A HALLOWE'EN thespian nightmare?
Is it some kind of Hallowe'en the 'other movie'? Not quite, though it was a very memorable event. Was it Hallowe'en dressing up, or dressing down?  Or about maybe wearing nothing at all? Wow! Risqué?  Nowadays not so much....but some years ago, nakedness was pretty shocking.

Zoom back to October 1967. Glasgow, Scotland. A High School Drama Club.  Every year, at least one of the plays performed by the club was by a playwright named –James Scotland. James Scotland wrote plays in a broad Scottish dialect, many of his words old fashioned and ‘funny sounding’, but the actors in the club loved performing them since they were a great laugh. All the productions were on a very low budget. The school art department painted the backdrops and the ‘technical’ department made the sets and furnishings. The stage sets were basic, but as 'accurate' as they could manage.
HALLOWE'EN was one of those plays.
Now, don your imaginative cap and zoom back in time to a medieval monastery with me...
AHA! Was it a spooky horror? Not exactly. A gloomy, scary atmosphere was created on stage, but the play is a comedy - meant to be funny, but just not as funny as the first night turned out! 
Apologies! - slightly doctored Dunkeld.

Think Vincent Price Hammer Horrors – a Dracula Castle... a creepy old crypt...
The Date: In between Vespers and Vigils on October 31st in the year 1460 – getting close to midnight. 
The Place:  Brother Barnabas’ cell in the Abbey of Cambusdonald in the Lothians of Scotland. (Edinburgh-ish)
The walls are of large stone blocks, cold and dripping with the inevitable moisture that goes along with winter in an old unheated stone building. To the Left of the stage is a small cast iron brazier emitting the most meagre amount of heat, just enough to boil the contents of a small cauldron suspended from an iron bracket, a thin trickle of steam rising from the pot. There’s a low wooden lectern Down Right, scarred and poorly carved, with a large open book resting on it, the edges of the pages uneven and curled. There’s a small shelf holding a few very large books behind it - their front facing illuminated bindings glinting and twinkling in the weak firelight.

Near the lectern is an arched door leading out of the room, the large circular metal handle on the planked wooden door also a faint glint in the darkened scene.  On the Back wall to the Right is a small recessed window with a faint hint of hazy moonlight showing in a darkened blue sky. Up Centre-Back is a three-sectioned small screen with a heavy tapestry behind it. Up Left is a table littered with what looks like glass apparatus on wooden stands and supports, scientific experiment tools lie scattered around amongst glass vessels full of weird coloured liquids.   

Apart from the brazier fire, the only illumination is the pale moonlight and a small flickering cruisie lamp (like an oil/ tallow filled Aladdin type lamp) which hangs from an open arched doorway to the left. The whole set is dark and gloomy. As the curtains open there’s the sound of a monastery bell pealing, constantly repetitive. Two monks in dark brown hooded cassocks enter with metered steps, intoning low monotone prayers. 
Barnabas and Donatus: the spell maker and the manuscript illuminator.
Scary scene for Halloween was the intention. The gist of the play is that the monks are not quite as religious as they should be, their banter bordering on as lewd as 16 year olds could be back in 1967, with their parents in the audience!

On that fateful Halloween night, the abbot is expecting an important visitor and the monks need to look very busy. 

Brither Barnabas gets down to his spell making… He flicks over the pages of his spell book rejecting a few that don’t have ‘spectacular’ results to show the visitor. ‘Tae cry up the spirits? He rejects that with a shudder... and moves to the next page. 
‘Ane first method to find The Philosopher’s Stane?’ He decides that’s a good one and goes off to fetch the first ingredients.
A strange puff of wind flips the page back .. “Tae cry up the spirits”… Low, spooky, medieval-ish music plays in the background.
Brither Barnabas continues to scan the spell, adding bits and pieces to the small cauldron, low muttering as he goes, the music increasing very gradually.
Can you hear Barnabas as he is chanting his spell?  
 “Black the sky and daurk the nicht – 
Come whit’s hidden tae my sicht-
Tak nae tent of when or why – 
Black the nicht and daurk the sky!” 
There’s a flash of sparkling light from the brazier when he throws a pinch of powder into the cauldron. Startling thunder claps rend the air; the weird medieval music reaches a climax, the stage goes black and then the music stops…there are moments of total expectant hush...before the low lighting flickers back on.
Brither Barnabas whoops and jumps with excitement. “A fine experiment that wis! I near lost my eye-brows.”
During the momentary darkness a figure makes an entry via the tapestry mentioned that hangs at the back. When the lighting slowly re-appears there's a filtered spotlight highlighting a young woman leaning on the screen. The top level of the screen is set at just above the curve of her breasts, her bare arms resting along the top, her shoulders showing white in the flickering light. 
Helen -wikimedia commons
“Guid evening, Brither Barnabas.” She announces her presence in a sultry and sexy voice. 
You’ve guessed it! His experiment has cried up a spirit from the past. Who is she? A very important and famous lady of historical significance - she is HELEN OF TROY.
The monks are first totally amazed, then beside themselves with glee, which is then followed by being despondent. Torn between being delighted with a woman in the cell, they are terrified that the abbot and his visitor will arrive at any moment. While they bicker about what to do Helen whines: “Could I no come oot o’ here?”
Brither Barnabas peers behind the screen. “Na! Erchie, she’s scuddy!”

Naked in those days during a school production?  Never!  Helen wore a very thin rectangle of vaguely-nude coloured silky material tightened around her non-existent breasts, floaty, and pinned with a large safety pin at the back. No such thing as a strapless under-wired bra back then as she remained behind the screen. And no possiblility of a very concealing nude body stocking either!
Long story short, Brither Barnabas tries to get rid of Helen but is so useless his ‘send-her-back’ spell calls up another famous woman of Bible history – Salome. Both females jostle for space behind the small screen.
Now in the way of all comedy plays Helen and Salome have a bit of history behind them and start to tongue lash which quickly escalates into a wee bit of pushing and shoving. This has been practised many times but none of the rehearsals factored in the nail that hadn’t been properly hammered into the screen. One simple snag against the nail and the silky material was stuck fast. A hearty tug from Salome to free it and the safety pin holding it in place at the back was sprung. The wrap floated down onto the floor to the side of the screen leaving Helen frantically trying to cover her nakedness. Salome by this time is writhing around laughing her head off. Naturally, there was some considerable noise from behind the set as well – the many backstage stage hands unable to quell their mirth. The club members were all around 16 years of age and pretty typical teenagers.

It has to be said that many of the audience, especially those in front row seats, were also amused.

Fortunately for Helen,  Brither Barnabas was a Jack-the-lad, had a way with the girls in school and nakedness appeared to be no shock to him. Dramatically holding his arm high, it subdued the sniggers, silence reigning once more. He peered behind the screen very slowly, wolf whistled, and grinned a thumbs-up to the audience who joined in with the fun -thinking it was all intended. When the resulting audience hoots subsided, Brither Barnabas scooped up the offending material and issued Salome with some instructions to tie it on securely under Helen's 'delicate womanly bits'. (I'm not sure Helen spoke to him ever again, offended by the 'delicate')

The play was on for three consecutive nights. The opening night was a huge success and all tickets were sold for the next two evenings. Was Helen naked again? No way... but an extra piece of material was hung behind the screen for Salome to throw aside at the appropriate moment. New words were penned into the script, yet for some reason the incident just wasn't quite so dramatic as had been on the opening night!

 And now for details of that Hallowe'en Treat.

Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army? AD 71
Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.  
When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?

TO enter the draw for THE BELTANE CHOICE ... pop the word 'Treat please', along with a way of contacting you, into the comments box. Tell me if you think this story is 'genuine' or 'false' and why you think this.

Have a fantastic Hallowe'en... in whatever way you are celebrating today... and HOP on over and visit the other blogs in this HALLOWEEN BLOG HOP.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Welcome Wednesday meets Tim Taylor

Welcome Wednesday's interview guest is fellow Crooked Cat author - T. E. Taylor. 

Zeus of Ithome, Tim's historical novel, will be published on the 2nd of November 2013, in just a few days.

Three Hundred Years of Slavery. Greece, 373 BC. For three centuries, the Messenian people have been brutally subjugated by their Spartan neighbours and forced to work the land as helot slaves. Diocles, a seventeen-year-old helot, has known no other life but servitude.
After an encounter with Spartan assassins, he is forced to flee, leaving behind his family and his love, Elpis. On Mount Ithome, the ancient sanctuary of the Messenians, he meets Aristomenes, an old rebel who still remembers the proud history of their people and clings to a prophecy that they will one day win back their freedom. A forlorn hope, perhaps.

But elsewhere in Greece, there are others too who believe it is time that the power of Sparta was broken. 

From this peek at the blurb,  and looking at the fabulous cover, it's exactly the kind of novel I love to read, Tim. I'll be buying my copy the minute it hits Amazon this Saturday. Though, for lovers of historical adventures who just can't wait till then, it's available for pre-order from Amazon just now.  Just click the link!  Zeus of Ithome

Now, let's get going with those questions...

Hello, Tim. Welcome to my blog.  I see from your bio that you write in many different genres. Can you tell the readers in which genre you first had work published?  And when this was? 
The first thing I published would have been a poem.  I had a couple in local papers when I was a child, if that counts.  (Of course!) I have published poems here and there in magazines and the like from the 1990’s onwards, though I’ve never been prolific.  My first published book, Knowing What is Good For You, was an academic non-fiction book on the philosophy of well-being – about what it is for someone’s life to go well for them, or for something to be good for someone. 

That seems very positive! What made you make the transfer into fiction writing, or had you written fiction before now without seeking publication?  
I have always been interested in writing fiction, as long as I can remember: before Zeus of Ithome I had written two unpublished novels.  So it was not so much a transfer as a return to something that was there all along.  From now on, I see myself continuing to write fiction in parallel with academic non-fiction and poetry.    

A great antidote for anyone who might come up against writers block would be to have a few different projects on the go. As a lover of all things historical, I’m very intrigued about your forthcoming Crooked Cat novel – Zeus of Ithome. Can you tell us a little bit about it, please?
It is set in ancient Greece in the 4th century BC, where the Messenian people have been enslaved for three centuries by their neighbours, the Spartans. They have revolted on several occasions during that period, but each time the Spartans have been able to re-impose their domination on the country.  The novel follows the fortunes of two Messenians who want to stir their people into revolution one more time, and the events happening elsewhere in Greece that will have a big impact on their plans. 

Does Zeus of Ithome straddle different sub-genres of fiction?
I would say it was a historical novel in the fullest sense, as a fictional story woven around real historical events, that tries to capture the essence of a particular time and place.  But it’s also, on one level, an old-fashioned adventure story, and on another an exploration of friendship, loyalty and overcoming fear. 

That sounds like exactly the kind of story I love to read. Were there any triggers which led to the plotline for Zeus of Ithome- e.g. travel or some personal experience?
The thing that set me off was reading about the ancient Messenians in a book about Sparta.  I wanted to find out more about them and when I did, their story seemed to be crying out to be told.  I was able to work into the plot some places I had visited myself and had vivid memories of – that was a great bonus. 

Like you, I try to add places I've been to into my novels when I can, and really love the buzz it gives me when I re-read and remember those locations. But... back to Zeus of Ithome. Who's the protagonist of the story?
The central character is Diocles, a seventeen year-old Messenian helot slave, whose family farms a plot for a Spartan master.  Forced to flee from Spartan assassins, he takes up with Aristomenes, an old rebel who plans to seek guidance from the Oracle of Delphi on how to instigate revolt in Messenia.    

Great plot! Do the names for characters just pop into your head as soon as you start a book?
Sometimes, but not for this book!  I did some research to find authentic ancient Greek, even specifically ancient Messenian names.  Diocles got his name from a real Messenian who was a victor in the Olympic games in 752 BC.  And there are some  historical people in the novel too. 

I'm glad to hear that, Tim. I choose the names of my characters very specifically, too. Even if the reader doesn't realise it when reading my novels, it means a lot to me to know I've spent time matching the name with the character. But...back to the interview. How much research did you have to do?
Quite a lot.  I don’t think there is any point in writing a historical novel unless you are true to the time and place you are writing about and can really bring it to life.  A good deal is known about ancient Greece in the classical period, so there were lots of details to be researched, though I did start with a reasonable general knowledge of that age.  But the research was enjoyable in its own right, not a chore.  I did most of it as I went along, rather than sitting in a library for weeks before I started.  That’s the beauty of the internet! 

I totally agree about the need for authenticity in a historical novel, and I'm so pleased to meet another author who admits to researching as they write. What’s Diocles' biggest challenge?
He has a lot of growing up to do, very quickly.  He has to learn to look after himself, and to take on responsibilities he is completely unfamiliar with.  Later, he has a difficult choice to make between his loyalty to Aristomenes and the opportunity to become involved in developments elsewhere in Greece that may ultimately help their cause. 

Ah! The conflict and the soul searching that entails. What are you working on right now?
I am working on another novel.  Though I’m sure I will return to ancient Greece in the future, this one is very different from Zeus of Ithome – it is about the downfall of a fictional Latin American dictator, and explores the different ways in which power corrupts.   

And now for some personal nitty gritty...
Favourite time of year?
It all depends on the weather!  Autumn can be beautiful when you get a bit of sun and the trees are all those shades of gold and red.  Or it can just be grey, wet and miserable. 

Favourite leisure pursuit?
I own several guitars and love to spend time playing them (and sometimes a bit of piano).  I also like hill walking, or just being among hills and mountains.

Favourite reading material?
I like lots of different kinds of book, and far more authors than I can possibly mention, but particular favourites include, among novelists, William Golding, Haruki Murakami and Paul Auster.  And among poets Wilfred Owen, Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath.  

Favourite place to visit for a short weekend break?
Somewhere with mountains, ideally, though it’s always nice to discover a new town.

Favourite restaurant cuisine?
Italian or Chinese, depending upon mood.  

Great answers, Tim. Thank you for letting us get to know you.  
Here's a bit more about Tim:

Tim Taylor was born in 1960 in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent - home of Josiah Wedgwood, Robbie Williams, Phil 'The Power' Taylor (no relation) and Lemmy.  He grew up just outside the city in Brown Edge, then at the age of 11 moved to Longsdon, near Leek.
         Tim went to Newcastle-under-Lyme High School, then studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford. After graduating he moved to London and spent a couple of years playing guitar in a rock band. When it became clear that he was never going to be a rock star, he sadly knuckled down and joined the Civil Service, where he did a wide range of jobs, including Chief Executive of the Veterans Agency.
         Tim married Rosa Vella in 1994 and their daughter Helen was born in 1997. In 2001 they moved to Meltham, near Huddersfield, to be nearer family, and have lived there ever since.
         While still in the Civil Service Tim wrote two unpublished novels and studied part time for a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, finally achieving it in 2007.  A period of illness in 2007 caused him to re-evaluate his priorities.  He took a career break in 2009 in order to spend more time writing, and subsequently left the Civil Service altogether in 2011.
         Tim now divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.
         As well as fiction, Tim writes poetry, which he often performs on local radio and at open mic nights (where he also plays the guitar).  He is involved with several local writing groups. He also likes walking up hills.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Thank you so much for coming today, Tim.  Best wishes for the launch of Zeus of Ithome... and I'm looking forward to 'seeing' you at the Facebook launch on Saturday.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

***** for TOPAZ EYES

I'm delighted to announce that TOPAZ EYES has just received another 5* review on Amazon and Goodreads.

So far, it only has six reviews on Amazon but they are ALL 5*s.

(If anyone out there has read but not yet reviewed Topaz Eyes, I'd really appreciate a few words about it. The more reviews the merrier!)

"This is a skilfully paced and plotted novel, in which the various story-lines only come together at the very end."

5.0 out of 5 stars Topaz Eyes 29 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
When Keira Drummond, an Edinburgh-based translator, receives an invitation to a gallery opening in Heidelberg, she sees it as an opportunity to revisit a city she worked in and loved some years previously. The invitation, however, turns out to be a pretext for an unexpected gathering, at which a plan is hatched to re-unite some family jewels long-since dispersed, for an exhibition. The plan has been drawn up by Jensen Amsel, a wealthy collector, and also present are Zaan de Raad, an antique dealer, and Teun Zeger. The three men are distant cousins. Keira, though connected to the family, is not related to them by blood, and knows none of them. Fascinated by the prospects, she becomes deeply involved in a quest that takes her to Minnesota, New York, Vienna and back to Heidelberg. It soon becomes apparent, however, that others are on the trail of the jewels and, sensing that she is being followed, Keira does not know who she can and cannot trust. This is a skilfully paced and plotted novel, in which the various story-lines only come together at the very end. 
Thank you for this lovely review, Dr. Mark Patton.  It's very much welcomed. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Where are those Monday Moments?

Happy Monday to you! It's going to be a mixed day for me today: the boring laundry, a little house tidy, some great gardening, and as much writing as I can fit in to that schedule!

Maybe some reading too... If you're looking for something to read as well, have a try at one of my books displayed on the sidebar.

Last week my blossom tree looked like this on the left.

Beautiful autumnal colour, but we've had a week of wet and windy weather. Not gales, but sometimes quite breezy.

The result is that my poor blossom tree now has only a handful of leaves on it, but I'm not rushing off, quite yet, to photograph it again before the grass is cleared. 

Some writing tasks are also overdue. It's the turn of The Flavians, Crannog life and if I concentrate well enough my for Thursday's Halloween Blog Hop post. I'd love to also do some of my new writing....

See you in a while. 

 This might look quite pretty, but it's wet and messy. 

As well as that tidy up outside, The Beltane Choice will be featuring on a new internet email site, called The Fussy Librarian where the details are shared amongst potential readers for them to choose and pick up a copy. More details and links for that later. 

See Monday Moments on my features blog today where Caridad Pinero shares another novel from her paranormal series - To Love and Serve. 

Pop over and have a read at what she's sharing about her series, and answer her question if you can!


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sunday Segment

Happy Sunday wishes to you!

I'm sorry! It's just a mite too soon to be sending out little tasters from AFTER WHORL-BRAN REBORN, my historical adventure romance that will be published on 16th December 2013

Keep checking in though, so that you don't miss anything when I start to post them. 

Instead, I'll give you a snip from The Beltane choice , Book 1 in my Celtic Fervour series.

Although Lorcan is the main character in Book 1, he has a number of lovely brothers, one of whom is called Brennus. Brennus gets a lot more of the attention in AFTER WHORL- BRAN REBORN so if you haven't met him yet here's your chance. (Below is what I imagine Brennus to look like!)

The story so far:
Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe of what is now southern Scotland, has been taken captive by Lorcan  - a prince of the Brigantes, of the area that is now the northenmost part of England. Lorcan meets up with his band of warriors who are sheltering overnight in a cave before moving on to their hillfort of Garrigill the next morning. Amongst Lorcan's band of avenging warriors is his brother Brennus. 

Nara is meeting Brennus now....

“Brennus? Who guards?”
Urging her to walk beyond to the rounding of the rock face, Lorcan followed in her wake. Without warning a torch brand thrust out flaring yellowish in the moonlight. She reared back when the dark shape of an immense warrior came into view from behind the flames.
“Lorcan, my brother! What kept you so long? So…this is what delayed you?” A gusty roar broke free, bouncing off the echoing walls as the young warrior took his fill of her.
The man’s teasing tone made Nara shrink back against Lorcan. She felt his supporting hand at her back, her mouth suddenly parched. Soon there would be four more of them around her. The prospect filled her with horror.
“This is who delayed me, Brennus.” Lorcan’s tone was firm and decisive while he pushed her reluctant body forward.
A huge cavern was set back from a wide bend in the cliff-face, the front of it a natural open shelf jutting out for five or six paces beyond an overhang which ceilinged high above them. The shelter stretched back so deep Nara could only see a hint of the far wall in the dim light shed by the flickering fire. A clutch of horses were tethered over on the far side of the wide opening, snorting and whinnying gently. One warrior sat guard near them, ensuring no animal strayed too near the edge. A heap of brushwood had been dumped just inside the opening, in far enough to be away from the elements, but the fire was a few paces back and centrally situated.
Nara sensed Brennus’s interest as Lorcan passed over their horses’ reins. Brennus’s silent scrutiny was embarrassing, sexual appraisal clear in the flaring torchlight. She was puzzled. Did this warrior find her desirable? This was only the second Brigante she had ever met, and he too was blatant in his sexual appraisal.
Brennus, though younger than his brother, was at least half a head taller than Lorcan with much wider shoulders. A powerful warrior, his shock of blond hair attractive, he was in fact more handsome than Lorcan, but he made no blood-rush in her veins.
Her gaze trailed Lorcan while he crossed over to one of the horses on the far side rubbing it reassuringly when it whinnied a welcome–evidently his own–while Brennus stroked the flanks of Rowan as he moved the stallion, and Eachna, over to the herd.
“This is a mighty stallion, Lorcan. If you do not claim him I would be happy to. Too bad his former master is not in good shape, not like this powerful beast.”
Brennus’s chuckle rang out across the cavern while Lorcan reached forward and detached the packs of meat from Rowan’s flanks, to dump them on the ground nearby.
Nara swallowed awkwardly. Brennus spoke of Cearnach. Ignored by them both she headed for the warmth of the fire where lingering food smells revitalised her appetite, her empty stomach growling in anticipation of being filled. The warmth of the burning logs licked out to her cold body, their instant heat searing her freezing cheeks; the smell of the smouldering wood reassuring. Throwing her bratt back from her shoulders her bare arms welcomed the fire’s radiance when she stretched her hands out to its blue-tinged orange glow.
The three warriors surrounding the crackling fire had been chatting quietly around its dancing light, smoky sparks billowing around the walls and upwards into the darkness hovering around the natural ceiling, creating strange shadowy shapes around the edges of the cavern–but on Nara’s approach all conversation stopped while they stared.
Loud guffaws were followed by vulgar comments.
“Now we know why you tarried.” One young warrior gestured lewdly at Lorcan, his laugh a ribald hoot. “Took your time, did you, Lorcan? Not a boy? Instead it is a woman well grown.”
Nara went on full alert when the warrior’s speech faded, his gaze blatantly feasting on her face and chest.
Yet another reached out to snake a hand around her calf, dragging her close to him. Kicking out wildly she barked, “Keep your hands and comments to yourself!”
“Ah hah! A woman with spirit. Is that why you kept her, Lorcan? And with the sign of the spear on her arm? Come closer, Selgovae captive.”
The man laughed, ignoring the fact her kicks had connected hard on his thigh, the impact much more effective than her feeble attack on Lorcan of Garigill. The warrior’s hands continued to snake around her legs as he scrambled to his knees not put off by her censure, or lunges, at all. His words cajoled, a feral gleam lit his eyes in the sparkling firelight, his tongue snaked over his upper lip hair, and his slashing scars stretched his cheeks.
The third man joined in the amusement, his hands tugging at her bratt.
“Unhand me!”
Nara batted his head while she struggled, but the warrior snared her to his body, his brawny arms imprisoning. Then she was free…but only to be trapped in the arms of the first one. Too late to remember Lorcan’s warning about staying close by him. Was she now to be left to these ravening beasts to slake their lust on? Was Lorcan going to let his marauding band do as they would and then dispatch her?
The thought was horrifying but, by Rhianna, she would not go down without a screeching fight!
The three warriors tussled her protesting body back and forth, their wicked mirth of what they would do to her echoing around the cavern, till she stumbled and fell to her knees. One of them forced her to the ground and had her flat and squirming under him before she could retaliate. His lips slammed down making her want to retch while she bit and struggled free. His hands were all over her breasts, squeezing to the point of pain, his lower body grinding hard against her as she shrieked and scratched any part of him she could reach. Her strength was all but gone when the hands lifted away from her body, the crushing lips plucked away and her legs were no longer compressed into the cavern floor.
She truly was free.
Strong arms had hauled the warrior off her, and only then did she hear the crack of Lorcan’s fists connecting brutally with the warrior’s jaw–a double blow which smacked the smaller man across the cavern floor. Lorcan followed with his body as he hauled the warrior upright and renewed the attack of his fists to the man’s chin. Another two blows followed, the warrior’s retaliation halted by Lorcan twisting the man’s arm behind his back and holding him in an excruciating arm lock.
“You will leave the woman alone, Fergal!” Lorcan’s command was ferocious as he dropped the grip and thrust Fergal to the ground, his glares even more severe as the warrior lay prostrate nursing his already swelling jaw.
Nara looked at Lorcan, a flush of relief at being free of the warriors’ clutches making her legs tremble and her breath hitch in her throat, glad she was not on the receiving end of his powerful fists. Yet, though he defended her he did not look towards her; not yet finished with his men. When he strode to confront the other two, his decree was severe.
“None of you will touch her. Do you hear me?”
“I hear you,” Fergal slurred while he noisily clicked his jaw back in place. He did not seem pleased with the situation but did as Lorcan bid as he slunk out of the cavern, no longer amused. The other two sat down, looking equally displeased. Not ashamed, nor apologetic…riled they had been thwarted in their pursuit.
Nara sidled closer to Lorcan. For protection. To feel less threatened, if that were possible, for the hostility in the cavern was palpable, their insolent stares continuing. It lay heavy on her conscience that she sidled closer to the man she had been trying to escape from earlier.
“Then what does she here?”
It mattered not who blurted the question; Nara was sure it was in all of their minds.
“Enough!” Lorcan snarled into the tense silence. “It was not the horse of a boy, as we had expected, but the Selgovae woman is my captive.”
The men looked away from her and stared into the flickering fire, frustrated tension knotting their neck and arm muscles. Nara felt they were only a short breath away from defying Lorcan while she stood close to him. Though the situation remained volatile, Lorcan’s order permitted no opposition, his rage visible in every taut muscle when he hunched over the fire warming his hands. He rubbed his bruised knuckles where he had contacted with Fergal’s jaw, then he removed Cearnach’s bratt and spread it down.
Scowling like black fury, he nodded that she should sit down, but she held back for the notion of sitting close to his warriors repulsed her. The same warriors who had been pawing her body only moments before. Though Lorcan still glowered he did not force her; he ignored her while his gaze searched around the fire’s edges.
“Is there food?” His clipped inquiry fell into the uncomfortable silence.
One warrior responded. “Some. It was already darkening when we reached the river track. We killed and guddled sufficient, not expecting more than you.” Reaching towards the fire’s edge the warrior extracted a long stick with the roasted meat of a small animal still clinging to it and indicated baked fish wrapped in leaves.
“Nay, you would not have expected more than me, but this cooked food is better than what we had earlier.” Thanking him, Lorcan rose to approach the horses.
A small glow suffused Nara, since she could only interpret his words as also meaning her.
Removing a chunk of boar meat from its wrapping, Lorcan passed it over. “Here. Fresh kill, but it should fill us a bit more.”
“Boar meat?”
“Aye, but I could not lug the whole beast. That is all we will reap from the kill this night.”
Without a word the warrior’s sharp blade flashed, sectioning the ribs into smaller portions. In moments they sizzled on the fire, the smell tantalizing Nara’s hungry stomach.
Another shiver of apprehension beset her. They had not expected him to bring a live captive, and certainly not a woman. The silence was like a thick bratt all around–heavy, and threatening. She held back from the fire when Lorcan settled again, unsure about going closer. Sensing her still paces away, he confronted her.
“Sit here, woman.” His order was gruff and detached. “By the warmth.”
The warriors edged away leaving a good space, still dissatisfied she was not there for their amusement, distinct resentment abounding. Disturbing shivers overwhelmed her slender frame. Her captor, Lorcan, had to be her protective buffer against their threatening proximity. Close to him, her leg deliberately touched his for reassurance. When he slid his body away, she shivered. He wanted no contact with her. Feeling deeply vulnerable she faced the intimidating scowls.
A complete hush descended before the men restarted their previous conversation. Lorcan passed her a share of the already cooked meat, as he had still not relinquished her own knife. No meat tasted finer as she nibbled, the overcooked drying fish coming a close second. The lightly sizzled boar ribs were soon shared out amongst everyone when they had cooked sufficiently, murmurs of appreciation breaking the high-strung silence.
One by one the men rose from the fire and wandered outside, chatting coarsely together, breaking the inharmonious lull.
Nara’s head bent to dispel humiliation. A light touch at her elbow raised her face as Lorcan’s eyes sought hers in the flickering darkness. A hint of warmth, a softening maybe, lurked there? She was not sure…
“It is to be expected.” His whisper was for her ears alone.
She knew Lorcan’s men were circumspect; their ribaldry could have been much coarser; their actions harder to control. It seemed Lorcan had saved her virginity, and maybe even her life, yet again.
Lorcan turned to Brennus when he sat down beside them. “Well, little brother? Did you have success in the chase?”
Little? Nara smiled at the cavern floor. A misnomer indeed for Brennus was a colossus.
“Nay. I did not follow his trail of blood.” Brennus’s answer was gruff.
“If the gods wish him to live it will be well; if not, there will be a reckoning.”
“Should you have brought the woman here, Lorcan?” Brennus’s voice was hesitant.
Nara winced and lifted her eyes to Lorcan, wondering what he would say.
“Discussion of her will come on the morrow.” Lorcan’s tone was unyielding.
Though he spoke to his brother he held her gaze, his unfathomable. A question hovered; she knew the answer to it for she still had not told him all. When she gave no response, he stood up with an offhand grunt, scowled, and strode off.
Nara trembled, not from cold, but from trepidation. He abandoned her. Her throat hoarse, she watched him approach his horse where he withdrew his own cloak from a dangling pouch. Returning, he spread it behind her. Relieved, her breathing restarted.
“Sleep there. Your own bratt will cover you.”
She scrambled to her feet, looking to the cavern entrance. “I must…”


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Out visiting...

I'm out visiting today, doing my usual every-second-Saturday post at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

It's about " Behind the scenes..." 

What circumstances can we control? What drives my actions and what can I control as I plan my forthcoming launch tour for AFTER WHORL-BRAN REBORN, the second novel in my Celtic Fervour series?

And what are the circumstances that drive my main character- BRAN- in my new novel?

Pop in and find out.

images from: 

And hop on over to my FEATURES BLOG and see the fantastically scary cover for the new horror anthology- NO MONSTERS ALLOWED - contributed to by my Crooked Cat author friend, Jeff Gardiner. 


Friday, 25 October 2013

Familiarise Friday meets author Erin Farwell

Welcome to my Familiarise Friday slot. Today, my guest is Erin Farwell, author of the mystery novel - Shadowlands. Erin's a very interesting lady I've met through my Writing, Wranglers and Warriors Blog - the one I post for every second Saturday (must remember to post there tomorrow). The interview below isn't for a character this time - instead I've asked Erin some questions so that we can get to know her...

Your days sound pretty busy, Erin. How do you fit in your writing with other business and leisure commitments?  This is my current challenge. It seems that writing is always the last thing I do rather than the first and I am working to change that priority. I have made a commitment of a certain word count I need to do per day and I believe that this will help.

How long have you been writing fiction? I started writing when I was about seven. I had a little notebook and a box of crayons and would match the mood of the story with the color I wrote it in.

How many books have you published so far? I have one novel, one short story and a self-published non-fiction book about being a woman business traveller.

I'm sure the travel done for your job gave you lots of fodder for fiction as well, Erin. Can you tell us a little about Shadowlands? Cabel Evans physically survived the Great War but mentally and emotionally he bears many scars and lives in self-imposed isolation. A fellow veteran arrives on his doorstep asking for help in solving his daughter’s murder. He has to return to the world, face his past, and find a killer, just a small to-do list.

I tend to draft and redraft a lot in my novel writing - About how many draft stages did Shadowlands go through? There were two major drafts but as detailed rejections letters came in, found places that needed reworking or a scene that needed adding or deleting. It was an on-going process. I worked with a great editor at my publisher who helped me through the last revisions.

What’s your main protagonist like in Shadowlands? Cabel is wealthy and was heir apparent to his family’s business. After the Great War, he returned to the business and did well until the pressure of pretending that he has fine broke him. At the start of the story he is still grieving for the friend he lost in the war and feels guilt over the men who died under his command. In his mind, he’s ready to die, yet he clings to life, looking for a reason to live. He’s seen hell in the trenches and feels stained by what he has witnessed and done, yet he still finds the world a hopeful place.

Does your past work in healthcare have any bearing on the darker aspects of Shadowlands that you have chosen to write about? When I worked as a consultant, I specialized in brain injury. I found it fascinating that someone could look exactly the same, yet be very different from what he had been. Cabel suffers from PTSD, although they called it shell-shock at the time, and it was much the same. He looked like he had before the war, but was a very different man inside. How he and others deal with that is part of his struggle.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?  I am a mix. Before I start writing, I know my beginning, two or three middle points and the ending. How I get from each point is an adventure in writing.

Did the mystery develop as the story emerged, or did you see the ‘depth’ of the mystery before you began to write the first draft? I always knew I was writing a mystery. The why of the story changed as the I researched and came across an odd fact about Al Capone.

I research a lot for my novels. Did you need to do a lot of research for Shadowlands? Yes, and it was fascinating. I have lived in both Chicago and in Berrien County, Michigan where St. Joseph is located, but I became fascinated with learning things about places I thought I knew. I also needed to learn about the Great War, the 1920s and many points in between. Basically, I needed to know as much as Cabel would know during the course of his life to date.

Do you think you will only write in one genre, and for one particular age group? I love mysteries and until recently couldn’t imagine writing anything else. However, a call for short horror stories had me rethink this. Hmmm. As for age group, I was reading adult mysteries since I was thirteen so I think I’ll stick with this group.

Has your work as a lawyer, and as a business consultant, helped you with the marketing aspects of your novel? I went into this knowing that I would need to market. I’ve done this for myself as a consultant so I understood how uncomfortable it can be at times but also necessary. I had a marketing plan developed before I finished the first draft. It was naïve and incomplete, but it I feel I went in with my eyes open.

That sounds like the best beginning. Many authors, myself included, don't have a clue initially that marketing will take up so much of their time. When not doing marketing tasks what will be your main writing goals in the coming year? Finish the sequel to Shadowlands, a must for me. I’d like to do at least one mystery conference and submit one or two short stories. My website is currently being overhauled and I’d like to get that done and have a regular blogging schedule. I will continue to market as much as possible, but I find it difficult to have sales goals as so much of that is outside of my hands.

One word section:

Eat in or eat out? in

Travel in the US or World travel as a preference? world

Most favourite place? St. Johan im Pongau, Austria.

Favourite drink? Raspberry martini

Leisure reading preference? Mystery

More about Erin:

Although I have degrees in business and law, I currently teach art classes for the City of Roswell, volunteer at my daughter’s school, and write mysteries. I grew up in southwestern Michigan and lived in Chicago for several years before becoming an Atlanta resident 15 years ago.  My husband and I have climbed Kilimanjaro and traveled to China to adopt our daughter, Willow.  My first novel, Shadowlands, was released in August of this year.  It is an historical mystery set in St. Joseph, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois in 1927. At that time, the Silver Beach Amusement Park sprawled along the lake front on the Michigan shore with the carousel, rollercoaster, games, food, and the Shadowland Ballroom. The park was a wonderful place, filled with laughter, fun – and murder.

Reach Erin at these places:

In July of 1927 prohibition is the law of the land, Al Capone controls the city of Chicago and Cabel Evans wants to die.

Haunted by nightmares of the Great War and devastated by the loss of his friend in battle, Cabel Evans lives in self-imposed isolation in his family’s summer home in St. Joseph, Michigan until a fellow soldier asking for help in discovering who had murdered his daughter, Kittie.  Cabel refuses until the soldier reveals that Cabel owes him a debt.

From the innocent distractions of the Silver Beach Amusement Park to the dark enticements of a Chicago speakeasy, Cabel’s past and present collide as he searches for the truth about Kittie’s death.  While he finds more questions than answers, he soon realizes that the murder of the innocent sixteen-year-old girl in the small town of St. Joseph, Michigan is connected to Chicago’s underworld; a place ruled by Al Capone, where violence and corruption are currency and everyone is a pawn in someone else’s game.

What began as a chance to repay a debt has become an opportunity for redemption. Yet just as Cabel realizes that he wants to live, someone else wants him dead.
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Thank you for those great answers, Erin. I'm delighted you've visited, and wish you the very best for great sales of Shadowlands.